What if…Once upon a time…

There is a township called Redford on the west edge of the city of Detroit. The road that is the border between the township and the city on that side is called Five Points.

On a particular block of Five Points there were a number of families who were very close. In fact, they called themselves the Five Points Family.

It was a special place in Redford…where little rascals drove a Blur, and played for the Stanley Cup, and grew to be strong in the Force by kicking the can. Autumn was festive and eggs were hunted in spring, and the night sky was bright in July. Grass would not grow there but children thrived and so did love, and the harvest yielded memories galore.

We were one of those families and it was a good and happy place for kids to grow up. Not perfect mind you, but it was home.

And then, once upon a time, on an early spring day, the neighborhood was out in front of our house playing roller blade hockey.

Mr. W and your Daddy were playing too. Mrs. W and I were sitting on the porch visiting and enjoying the sunshine. All the boys from the T family were there, and the C family kids from a block over. Mr. and Mrs. W’s four children and you three were all skating up and down on your roller blades, swinging plastic hockey sticks trying to hit the ball. If a car came, the grown ups would yell “car” and all you kids would scamper… some gracefully, some panicked, some stumbling to the curb and jump on the tree lawn, because that was the rule.

As the game continued we could see down the street a couple of township trucks and police cars headed toward the play. So Mr. W yelled “car” and you all made your way to the tree lawn.

But instead of driving past us the police cars and township trucks stopped in front of our house. And the Township Supervisor got out of a police car and told everyone to load up into the trucks that were being opened. Daddy and Mr. W approached the Supervisor to talk about what was going on, but there was no talking. The police grabbed both Daddy and Mr. W and pushed them into a truck.

The took all the young people playing hockey, they took Mrs. W and me. They took everyone who was outside at that moment.  They took all the C kids, all the T kids. They didn’t take our neighbors Reggie and Ray because they were too old.

They took us all in the trucks to Detroit, by the river and forced us on big boats, ships really, with many other people. The people who seemed to own the ships looked very different from us, and we didn’t understand their language, and they didn’t understand ours.

They forced us all down some stairs into the bottom of the ship. When Daddy and Mr. W resisted, the different looking men hit them, very hard.

There were too many people. It was very crowded. Little children were crying. It was hot. The ship started moving and some people got sick. But there was no bathroom. When they threw up it was just…there. There was nowhere to clean up. Nowhere to sit or sleep. Nowhere to go potty. It was dark. No windows. No fresh air. It smelled bad. People were scared. Some were angry. Everyday the Different People gave us some water and a little food. It wasn’t enough. We were hungry and very thirsty. We stayed in the bottom of the ship a long, long time. It got smellier and smellier. We couldn’t take a bath or brush our teeth. We didn’t want to breathe the smelly air. Some people got sick. Very sick. Some even died.

After a long time, we don’t know how long, but it was days and days and maybe weeks and weeks, the ship stopped. We didn’t know where we were. It was a different place. Very different. It was nothing like Redford. The only people we could see were the Different People. Different hair. Different faces, different clothes, different words.

We were all dirty and weak. Hungry and tired. We hadn’t moved around much and now our legs didn’t work so well. We were sore. Scared. And angry.

The Different Men split us up. The C girls were separated from us. David and Andrew and Nick and all the dads were separated from us. They tried to stay with us, but the Different Men hit them and tied their arms together and their legs and led them away with a rope like we would do with our dog Sparkles on her leash. (Sparkles! Who was taking care of Sparkles?!)

You three kids stayed with me and we were taken up some stairs onto a platform in front of a huge crowd of the Different People. We looked past all of them, panicked, trying to see where Daddy had gone. We didn’t know why were on that platform. We thought maybe they were going to hurt us. You were all scared and crying and clinging to me. Then some of the Different Men started shouting. Every time they shouted we flinched. We couldn’t understand what they were saying. Then we were pushed down the stairs and a Different Man came and took us with him. We had to walk a long, long way. He gave us food. But it was very different from what we ate in Redford. You didn’t like the taste. But it was all we had. So we had to eat it.

When we finally stopped walking we were put into a shelter. There were many different kinds of shelters. Strange looking. Strange plants and trees too. Animals we had never seen before! But then we saw some other people, people who looked like us! We couldn’t believe it. When the Different Man left us, the people who looked like us came up to us and started talking. They sounded different from us but we could understand them.

They told us the Different People wanted us to work. To help them work what seemed like a big farm. Work with the animals. We had never worked on a farm before. The only animal we knew was our dog Sparkles. That didn’t matter. Some of us would be allowed to work in their homes. The people who looked like us showed us where to clean up and where to go potty. They told us some of the words the Different People used and what they meant. They told us we had to stay and do what we were told or the Different People would hurt us.

We told them about Daddy. They looked sad and said there wasn’t any way to know where he was. We were very sad. We cried a lot about Daddy, but mostly at night.

During the day there was a lot of work to do. Everybody had to work. It didn’t matter how old you were. If you stopped or complained, they hit you. Even when you worked hard some of the Different People were mean.

We didn’t have anything. None of the things we used to have at home. Just the clothes that we wore all the time. We thought about our home. And our neighbors. We thought about Munga and Boompa and Grandma and Grandpa. What would they think? We just disappeared. We didn’t even know where we were.

Every day we had to get up early and work hard. Our hands hurt. Our backs hurt. Our whole bodies hurt. At night we would cry before we fell asleep.

We never got to sleep in. We never got to decide what we would do that day- when we would work, when we would stop. We were told to do things. If we tried to do anything different we would be hit. Hard.

We learned more and more words. But nothing else changed.

What if this happened to us? Once upon a time?

What would you feel? Scared? Angry? But you could never change it. You couldn’t eat what you wanted, or when you wanted, or eat as much as you wanted. You couldn’t have anything. You couldn’t play. You couldn’t go to school. You couldn’t see Daddy. You couldn’t decide anything.

That’s what it means to lose your freedom. Freedom is when you can make your own choices. But we couldn’t make any choices. If we could, we would have chosen to rest sometimes. We would have chosen to find Daddy and our friends.

We would have chosen to go home.

Sometimes we would get really mad. But it didn’t matter. There wasn’t anything we could do. We would get angry and angry and angry, but nothing changed.

We would just do what we were told. We were tired and we worked hard and we were hungry. And it never changed. It never stopped. You all grew up. And we kept doing the same things. We did whatever we were told to do.

Sometimes we still got angry and cried. But not so much anymore. Some of the anger changed. It became hatred. Wanting to hurt the people who did this to us. Wanting to hit them and shake them and say, “Why did you do this?! Where is my Daddy?! Why can’t I go home?! Who do you think you are?!”

It didn’t make any difference. Some people got really mad. But they also got hurt really bad.

One of the people like us, who still got mad a lot, tried to run away. At night. But the Different People took dogs and guns and chased him. We never saw him again. I don’t think he got away. He didn’t know the area like they did. And he looked so different. Any one who saw him would know that he didn’t belong off on his own. The only people who looked like us were told what to do by the Different People.

Once upon a time. Once upon a time, not very long ago, it happened. Only the people who look like us were the “Different People”.  And the people who were taken from their homes and made to work hard and separated from their families and hurt were people who looked like our neighbors Raheem and William and Ericka and our friends Uranah and Walter and Nikita and Mr. C W who works with Daddy at Glendale.

Once upon a time this happened to their great, great, great, great grandmas and grandpas. What do you think they felt? Once upon a time?

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What are you holding on to?

I am home sick.  I’ve been in bed a few days now.  And so I have a lot of time to think.  To think and to observe.  And there is a lot of loss going on around me.

So many good byes.  So many changes.  So many things we must let go of.

We want to hold on.  Cling tight.  We are afraid of losing hold, losing touch, losing all we know, knew, love, loved, all our past.

We hold things close.  We value them.  Sometimes we don’t know how much we value them until we lose them.

We take things for granted.  Then we re evaluate, and try to be present, intentional, in the moment, see everything.  Not take today, this moment, this present for granted.  For it too will pass on.  Change will come.

Did we appreciate it? Value it? Recognize it?

Will we survive the loss?

Often we are afraid we will not survive the loss.

We hold things tighter.

You might thing this is a blog about appreciating what we have.

You might thing I’m headed for nostalgia, or reminiscing, or thankfulness.

I’m not.

Prepare for abrupt hairpin left turn…now.

What are you holding onto?  What is in your hand?  What are you clutching?

Why?

Why are you holding it?  Cherishing it?  Clinging to it?

Does it warrant being valued above all else?

We are offered the greatest gift ever, and this is the season we speak most of it.

We are offered reconciliation with the God of the universe, the God who is the intelligent designer, the cosmic power.

We are offered forgiveness.  And freedom.

And we need it.  Forgiveness.  And freedom.

Are you an adult?  Then you have felt it, the sense that you have blown it.  Completely.  Blown it.  How do I recover?  How do I get through this mess, guilt, disaster?  How do I rise again from these ashes?  How do I escape this prison?

By accepting the gift.  The gift of forgiveness and reconciliation.

You will need both hands to receive the gift.

Both hands to take hold of it.

Which means you must let go of everything you are holding.

Everything.

Sounds crazy, right?

We want to bring the gift into our life.  Add it to the pile of things we are currently holding.

C.S. Lewis wrote an incredible book – The Great Divorce, telling the story of a bus ride from hell to heaven.  Everyone is welcome to stay.  But in order to stay they must lay down whatever it is they are holding.

Remarkably, they cannot.  They cannot release those things which keep them chained to hell.

Hell!

They trade away the opportunity of life, light, forgiveness, reconciliation, God.  They trade God for whatever it is they are holding.

So easy to see in someone else’s life.

So hard to see in my own.

What am I holding that is more valuable than God?

My stuff? My identity? My sense of self?  My pride? My sense of independence? My lifestyle? My family? My loves? My passion?

We are offered the greatest gift.  Reconciliation, forgiveness, new life.

It is not a gift that goes on top of the pile of gifts.

It is a gift to be received with both hands.

After we put everything else down.

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40 years ago…

November 2016 it will be 40 years.

Forty years.

Since I decided to follow Jesus.

No turning back. Read more »

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We Had No Idea…

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Palm Sunday…a narrative from the perspective of one of Jesus’ closer followers…as I imagine he might have told the story based on narratives from the four gospels…

Often, we think we know what’s happening…we lean on our own understanding, our own perspective…only to find out…

We had no idea…

We knew what every good Hebrew boy knew…we knew God’s law, we knew the questions to ask on the night of Passover…we knew Messiah would come and establish David’s throne forever.

And like every Herbrew had been asking for hundreds of years we wondered…when would Messiah come?

We had no idea.

When the baptiser was in full swing preaching repentance, turn to God, get ready for the kingdom of God, Andrew was among those following him.  But one day John, who seemed like a prophet (and we hadn’t seen one of those for a long time) John pointed out another man and said​,​ ​​He is the one!  The one I said was greater than me because he was before me!​​

So Andrew followed this new teacher/rabbi, wondering Who is this man who John says was here before him?  We had never heard of him.  Who was he?

We had no idea.

When this new rabbi told Peter to go fishing in the morning, the morning!  Peter got a little sarcastic and was like​,​ Ok​,​ Teacher,​ whatever you say.  And then the nets pulled in so many fish it almost sank the boat!  It might have if James and John hadn’t pulled alongside.  Peter freaked out and fell before Jesus the teacher and said, ​Get away from me I am a sinful man.

Well sure Peter, you and everyone else, but why did you say that to the teacher?  And how did you get so many fish in the morning?

We had no idea.

When we were out on the lake and that crazy storm hit; we were sure it was over for us.  Yet the rabbi was asleep- in all that weather!  Can you imagine?  Someone woke him up and he spoke to the storm, the water and the waves, and they calmed.  The storm stopped.

Who does that? Could this be Messiah?

We had no idea.

James and John thought it was, in fact they were so convinced they wanted to secure their place in his new kingdom.  So their mom asked Jesus to put one of her sons on each side of Jesus.  Nice move dudes.  Jesus said those weren’t his places to give, but could they drink the cup of suffering?

Suffering?  Sure let me suffer on the right or left hand of the king!

What suffering would Messiah experience?

We had no idea.

When Jesus started talking about all kinds of suffering he would have to endure, Peter tried to set him straight.  Messiah suffer?  May it never be!  But he was harshly answered, rebuked as a stumbling block to God’s ways.

Poor Peter.  He put his foot in it that time.  So maybe Jesus would suffer, but then, maybe he wasn’t the Messiah​?​

We had no idea.

And then Passover came and we headed to Jerusalem.  To observe the festival and remember when God set his people free from slavery. Wouldn’t now be a good time for Messiah to set us free?  But when would he come?

We had no idea.

And then Jesus, he does this crazy thing.  He rides into Jerusalem on a donkey!  Like a king.  People lining the street yelling​,​ Hosanna, Save us!  And he didn’t just agree to ride into the city on the back of a donkey, he arranged it!  He sent a couple of guys to go get the donkey!

What?!  Is this it?  Is David’s throne to be established now once and for all?  Freedom from our oppressors!  Is Jesus the Messiah? Could it be?

We had no idea.

Then the passover meal itself.  It got a little weird at the end.  Jesus was talking about his body and blood.  And he offered us a cup, like a man offers a cup to the woman he wants to marry.  What did he mean?

We had no idea.

Then it got even weirder…he said someone was going to betray him.  What?​!​  Who?

We had no idea.

So there we were, with our teacher, who just rode into Jerusalem like a king, on Passover no less, perfect time to free God’s people.  We were on pins and needles, also exhausted.  Was this God’s time?  Was freedom near?

We had no idea.

Then Judas shows up with Roman soldiers and high priests and it looks like a battle is about to errupt.  And Peter, ever the first to react, draws his sword and cuts off a kid’s ear.  But Jesus tells him to put his sword away and heals the ear.

And Jesus goes with the soldiers.  He just goes.  No fight.  No battle.  No freedom from slavery on Passover.  He just goes with them.

Wha…?

What happens now?

We had no idea.

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Driving lessons for the road and beyond

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A friend encouraged me today.  (How important that is!  If you have given thanks for someone or thought positively about someone you love- share it with them!  It’s like a cup of water along a marathon – so needed.)

Reflecting on her words my thoughts started spinning…wholeheartedly, running a race with endurance, not giving up, keeping our eyes on Jesus the author (the source) and perfecter (the editor) of our faith.

Which took me to driving.  I live in the Motor City, with a Car Guy.  It’s always going to be about driving folks.

This idea of keeping my eyes on Jesus.  This is key.  This is how we keep going where we should be going.  How do I know this?  Driving.

In drivers’ education, when I was learning how to handle a monster of a machine, I was taught to look ahead in a curve or turn, because my hands would steer where my eyes were looking.

I tried it and it was like magic!  I didn’t have to guess how much to turn the steering wheel at every point in the curve, if I kept my eyes on the road ahead, my hands steered me there almost without thinking!

Of course the alternative is also true: if I look away from the road *shocking* my hands steer me the direction my eyes are looking.  (Thank you rumble strips.)

Keep my eyes on Jesus.  Then I will walk toward him.

And then there’s the Michigan left.  I love the Michigan left, it is such a good life analogy!

In Michigan, where we have a lot of large multi lane roads with boulevards, you cannot just turn left in any given intersection.  Frequently, if you want to go left, you must first turn right.

That’s right.  To get to where you want to be you must first turn away from it, completely, go in the exact opposite direction.  Then, after a bit, you will be able to turn back to your intended destination.

Anyone who wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me (Jesus) will find it.

Then, of course, there is the idea of speed, and the physics principal: the faster you go the longer it will take you to stop.  That’s really important at night.  My driver’s ed teacher repeated again and again that we should not overdrive our headlights.

“Overdriving your headlights means not being able to stop inside the illuminated area ahead. It is difficult to judge other vehicles’ speeds and distances at night. Do not overdrive your headlights—it creates a blind ‘crash area’ in front of your vehicle. You should be able to stop inside the illuminated area ahead.”  Thank you driversed.com

If God’s word is a light unto my feet, what would it mean to overdrive that light?

How we drive impacts others.  Sometimes it literally impacts others.  I have worked hard this week to not be impacted by other drivers.  Perhaps they weren’t paying attention, or made a bad judgement call, and I had to do some quick maneuvering to avoid contact.

My walk impacts others.  The author of Hebrews tells us we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. It’s true.  People are watching.  Your kids are watching.  How ya driving?

My driver’s education teacher was a man called Mr. Martin.  He was a nervous man who had a brake on the passenger side of the car. And he wasn’t afraid to use it.  I told him he was paranoid once, he vehemently denied it!  Then he asked what paranoid meant.

I called him paranoid decades before I ever attempted to teach my own kids to drive.  Like my father always says, Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. (from Catch 22)

Well Mr. Martin, if you were afraid, it probably wasn’t paranoia, it was probably valid fear!  Teaching teens to drive is no task for the faint of heart.

But let me just say, Thanks.  Your driving lessons have come in very handy, on and off the road.

 

 

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Zoom zoom

I am from the Motor City.  So cars are a big deal here.

Yet it may be one of the most difficult places to learn how to drive.  Detroit is a city with lots of freeways, and very large surface roads.  So large they are often boulevards, four lanes of traffic going in either direction with some green space in between.  Traversing these roads is where the “Michigan Left” originated.

A Michigan Left occurs when you want to go to the left, but you are not permitted because of the traffic pattern.  You must make a right before you can make your left.  It’s an interesting concept and one that is probably transferable to life, but that thought will have to wait for another day.

What also makes driving in the “D” difficult is the speed.  I696 is jokingly referred to as the Autobahn.  That’s a reference to a German highway with no federally enforced speed limit.  But on any given Detroit freeway you get the impression that the speed limit is more like the Pirate Code, not a law really, merely a suggestion.

Which is fine as long as you don’t mind the occasional police officer giving you a ticket for failing to take the suggestion seriously.

And if you like speed you had better understand this basic physics principle: the faster you go, the longer it takes to stop.

I don’t think we grasp this concept very well.

The faster you go, the longer it takes to stop.

This is also a transferrable concept.  A principle that applies to our non driving lives.

Ever work a job that brings you home at what would typically be “sleep time”?  You can’t get off work and jump into bed and be asleep. It takes time to unwind.  Time to slow down both your mind and your body.

The faster we go, the longer it takes to stop.

And we can go pretty fast.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is by Amy Grant, I need a Silent Night.

December comes, then disappears, faster and faster every year.

Did my own mother keep this pace, or was the world a different place?

Look at us now, rushing around, trying to buy Christmas peace.

I need a silent night, a holy night

To hear an angel voice, through the chaos and the noise.

I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here.

To end this crazy day with a silent night.

I find the essence of this song applies to my life every month, not just December.

I need silence.  I need stillness.  I need time to reflect, to think, to pray.

The best conversations take place when we are not hurried.  Sitting with a close friend over, not a cup, but a pot of tea or coffee.   Relaxing in front of a fireplace, nowhere to go.  Walking slowly on the beach, no purpose, just strolling along.

I hunger for these kinds of moments.  These times of conversation, not just with friends and family, but also with God.

Perhaps you can relate to full days.  Crazy days.  Does it ever feel like most days are traveled on the Autobahn?

And the faster we go, the longer it takes to slow down.

So how do I create a rhythm that gives me space for silence, stillness.  How slow do I have to go?

That is the answer I am searching for.

Zoom, zoom.

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It Takes A Village…

My phone started going off early this morning, bringing Happy Mother’s Day wishes.

The first was a number neither my phone nor I recognized.  “Uh oh,” said Larry thinking it was misdialed, “Someone’s mom isn’t getting her message.”

The second was from a friend, he and his wife mentored Larry and I in our early days of marriage.

The third was from my “oldest” friend, not that she is chronologically older than all my other friends, but having met in high school our friendship spans the most years.  This is the friend that “knew me when”.  One of the few who knows all my history, my family of origin.  The closest thing I have to a sister.

And it started me thinking.  I wouldn’t be the mother I am without these two and many, many more.

So I would like to wish a very Happy Mother’s Day to my village, the women of my tribe…

First to my mom, whom I mother so very much like.  She set the example as my mom, and walked me through the earliest, scariest days, of my motherhood.  Those days before you understand how fragile your children are not, either physically or mentally.

Then to Larry’s mom who, in raising him, formed the other piece of the foundation that would become the culture of our family.  She raised me a good, good man.  I am so glad to be the mother of his children.

To Traci, who co-momed with me during the dark days of my undiagnosed depression and made those days so very much brighter by her presence, her friendship, her wisdom as a teacher, her love for me and the kids.

To Carol and my next “oldest” friend Karen.  We have been moms alongside one another, tossing our kids together in front of Beatrix Potter, or in the “toy rooms” of our homes, while we took a breath with someone safe and encouraged each other along the way.  We have made the entire journey together, and it continues…

To the Titus women of my life, those women who were just far enough ahead of me to leave me a true path to follow…Barb Withenshaw, Kathy Thornton (Mrs. T.).

To the Five Points moms, we were a village within the village, an extended family, a neighborhood like everyone should have, how grateful I am for Becky, Pattie, Chris and Tina.  You were each Mom to my kids in very special ways, and dear friends to me.

To the women who entered my village as our mothering transitions, as our children reach adulthood and we become more coach and peer and even -grandmoms…Patty, Karol, Terri, Deb, and Debbie.

To the only other man in this list, someone I never met, but he shaped my mothering in significant ways…Mr. Rogers.

To the women who became my sisters…Jackie, Terri, Laurie and Mary.

Thank you all, for being the village that has shaped me as a mother, the village that has mothered with me.

And finally to the women coming after, the younger moms of my village…Anne, Elizabeth, Jess, Christiana, Marina, Elita, Dani, Amelia, Kara, Heather, Amy, Bianca, Rachel, Hiraida… May your village be as rich as mine was with women friends and mentors.

A very Happy Mother’s Day to all!

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The Day before Christmas…

‘Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…

We have a baby in the house, he’s not as quiet as a mouse, he makes some noise, so do his toys. But when that baby of the house is now as quiet as a mouse, don’t hear a peep, cuz he’s asleep!

The visiting baby is asleep. And my baby is asleep. My oldest is out doing some last minute shopping with her husband. My husband is working, making sure everyone gets the auto parts they need, as long as they come in before noon. And my middle child is probably grilling up steaks for folks who have decided an Outback lunch is just the thing on Christmas Eve.

All my presents are bought, wrapped and waiting. Some are known, some are surprises.

Do you give gifts that are surprises? Or do you work from a list? Do you focus on desires and dreams? Or do you like to meet needs with your gifts?

Do you use wrapping paper? Or special bags and boxes? Is wrapping part of the beauty of the season, or merely the disguise, concealing a gift’s identity?

Are you extravagant? Do you go overboard? Or are you sensible? Or do you intend to be sensible but end up going overboard once you start?

What part of this season do you enjoy most? The music? The lights?

When I harken back to what started this season of celebration, I see where many of our traditions began…

A father decided to give a gift…he didn’t keep his gift a secret, and yet it was a huge surprise.

It was a gift that satisfied desires and dreams, and yet it was a gift that was desperately needed.

The gift was wrapped in cloth and it was well disguised.

And this gift was the very definition of extravagant. A gift that contained all the love a father could give.

And when it was given there was light, a very special light. And there was music, loud, heavenly music.

A messenger announced the gift:

I bring you news of great joy for everyone! For a baby has been born, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. You will find him wrapped in cloths, the King of the Universe disguised as a baby.

He is given because his father knows what you desire and what you need.

And the cost of this gift is so great, so extravagant that there should be no doubt at all that the father has given this gift because he loves you so very much.

Merry Christmas!

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Hello 51

I was just driving down Washington Street in Marquette, MI, and glanced at the speed limit sign on the right.

Speed limit 50.

50

I am fifty. That’s my number right now. But Tuesday I must surrender it.  And then this number that represents half a century of life, that freaks most folks out, but that I have embraced – this great number will no longer be mine.

And I will simply be 51.

Nothing real cool about that.

I will be on the Other Side of 50.  That’s the hill right?  And I’m now over it?  On the downward slope?

50 years of life, of learning.

I keep learning and so I discover better ways to do things. I see places where I thought I was right, but I was wrong. I gain a better understanding of myself, others, life. But there is no going back to apply these lessons learned.  No do overs.  My kids are grown so the lessons I have learned about parenting can only be passed on to those who are parenting growing children now.

In 50 years I have made a lot of mistakes. Reflecting on my mistakes Regret becomes an unwelcome companion.

“Hello my name is Regret.  I’m pretty sure we have met.  Every day of your life, I’m the whisper inside that won’t let you forget.”  (Matthew West, Hello my name is…)

Regret might whisper to Matt West, but it is much bolder with me.  It prefers to use memories like postcards and flash the images before my eyes till I cringe, blush from embarassment or groan with…regret.

Regret over things I have done or said.  Mistakes, missteps, miscues.

I think my mistakes are devastating.

Listening to a conference I attended a number of years back, the speaker instructed extroverts to write some phrases on a post it note to keep with us during meetings:

I was wrong.  I made a mistake.  I dropped the ball.  I’m sorry.

As I listened to this talk for what must be the eighth time, it dawned on me…

She assumes I will be wrong, I will make a mistake, I will drop the ball. And yet I will still be there to say I’m sorry. She knows I will blow it.  She expects I will.  And it isn’t game ending.

I always thought mistakes were game ending.  I have believed that mistakes were something to be deeply ashamed of, something from which you don’t really recover.

Yet this speaker was moving on as though mistakes did not bring the world to a screeching halt.  As though they were something you point out as you go along.  Yeah, there’s a mistake, I’m sorry, and we’re walking…

Is this possible?  Can mistakes be simply, mistakes, and not the crippling events I believe them to be?

Can I ditch Regret and it’s unwelcome version of This is Your (messed up) Life?

As I prepare to relinquish 50, as time walks on, I wonder…

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“What A Day This Has Been…”

“What a rare mood I’m in, why it’s almost like being…”

Well, the song goes on to say, it’s “almost like being in love.”  But that’s not how I would finish the lyric today.  Today it’s “almost like being…Mike Rowe.”

You know Mike Rowe…dirty jobs.  Love that guy.  Really.  Wish he’d been here today.

Thursday morning I discovered that our basement had about  an inch and a half of water on the floor.  Not the first time, probably not the last.  But never something I look forward to.

Called our reliable guy Chuck from Best Results in Redford. Chuck came out and cleared my outside pipes, which were clogged with tree roots, string and other items that I have NO IDEA how they got there.  Truly.

And my brain wants to figure out mysteries like this (thank you papa).  So Thursday night I dreamt that we had moved away from this house and then moved back and the people who lived here in between must have flushed these stupid things down the toilet.  Not true, but apparently the only explanation my subconscious could come up with.

We have been here before.  The water in my basement is not coming in from the outside, it is already here and finds it impossible to leave so it stays, in the basement, until Chuck comes and clears the way.

Once Chuck clears the way, my Handsome Prince then comes in with hose and bleach and makes it all better.

Only that didn’t happen this time.  This time there is no time.  No spare time.  My Handsome Prince has been working, a lot.  A LOT.  And there is no time for him to make it all better.  And frankly, it smells.  Not nice.  And the house smells.  Not nice.

So I had to pony up and do it myself.

And I learned a few things about washing the basement floor.  It is not a pleasant job to begin with, but my house, my precious house, where I have raised my family and lived and loved and whatever, this house makes the job harder.  And here’s why:

Top Five things that make this dirty job dirtier…

5.  Not enough light.  We have plenty of flourescent light fixtures in the basement, but one by one they have stopped working.  No it’s not the bulbs, we have replaced them.  Consequently, anything done in the basement must be done with the light from the windows (and therefore in the daytime) aided by one lone light bulb.  60 watt.  The job must be done in the day.  Handsome Prince works all day.  Ergo, I must do the job, thus making it dirtier, for me.

4. The instinct that one should not be running a hose in the basement. Common sense says, Do Not Pour Water Onto The Basement Floor.  And yet, I must pour water onto the basement floor.  This is not a bucket and mop job.  This calls for more water.  Lots more water.

I used a hose.  Attached to the wash tub sink.  A hose, a large broom, bleach, and a squeegee. (Okay, I have never written that word out before.  I’ve never seen it.  Just guessed at the spelling.  Expected spell check to catch it.  Seems I spelled it correctly.  That is one weird word.  Squeegee.)

Initially, I was tentative about the hose, and very sparing with the water.  I got over that.  By the end I was enjoying hosing down the basement.  Though it occurred to me that perhaps the washer and dryer should not be running while I was pouring water underneath them.  In fact, they should probably be unplugged.  Now kids, don’t do this at home, I paused long enough to, successfully, unplug them both, and then resumed a very liberal application of water to the basement.  I think I will wait until the floor and furnace duct vents are dry before plugging them back in.  If the ceiling is dry, the bottom of the washer and dryer should be too, right?

3. Clumping Kitty Litter. I have a cat.  He requires a litter box.  Clumping kitty litter is a wonderful innovation that makes litter clean up easy.  Until your basement floods.  Then clumping litter is the plague.  You don’t know how well you haven’t swept the floor until you soak it and discover clumping kitty litter sludge.  This must be swept up independently of the cleaning the floor.  Don’t want this sludge going down the drain, that will just cause the whole cycle to start over again.

2. Water soluble Paint.  You read that right.  My basement floor was painted in water soluble red paint.  Who does that?  Who makes that?!  I would like to know.  What Einstein made it? What Genius bought it? And what Fool applied it to what has become MY basement floor? Whenever the floor gets wet, the paint comes up and attaches itself to whatever is nearby: clothing, bedding, walls…

We painted over the red paint, with actual floor paint.  In grey.  Trouble is the grey paint is sticking to the red paint and the red paint isn’t sticking to anything but my laundry.  The result is a river of paint chips that must not be permitted to go down the drain, lest we begin the entire cycle again.

But preventing the paint chips from washing down the drain is not as hard as one would think, because of the number 1. thing that makes this dirty job dirtier…

1. Drains placed at the high points of the floor.  I have two drains in my basement.  Neither one is anywhere near the lowest point of the basement floor.  In fact, the lowest part of the basement floor is underneath the stairs.  If there were a topographic map of my basement, you could name the two mountains Drain 1 and Drain 2.

So the water must be encouraged, no, forced really, to go where no water wants to go:  Up.  Up to the drains.

This is best done with a broom.  A squeegee is ok, but the floor resembles a ski hill of moguls and the squeegee is so long it does not make complete contact with the floor.  This gives the water an escape, a way to avoid doing what is unnatural.

So I used the broom mostly.  And the hose.  I hosed down the floor for a really long time.  A really long time.  When the basement stopped smelling bad I knew it was time for the bleach.

Cool thing about bleach is that it sort of makes little suds when scrubbed into the floor with a broom.  After letting the bleach sit on the floor for a time, I picked up the hose again.  Now, with the bleach suds I could see the way the water ran.  Happily it does seem to want to run away from the walls, so the floor by the walls must be slightly elevated.

As I’ve said, the big pond is under the stairs, with a slightly smaller pond just south of it, and separated by a nice mound of floor.  The drain by the washer and dryer is useless.  Completely useless.  The second drain, thankfully is actually low enough to receive water.  I knew I had enough water on the floor when I could make white caps with the broom.

And now my basement floor is clean.  Wonderfully clean.  The dirty job is done.

I believe I will reward myself with a trip to the library, where I can escape into someone else’s world for a time.  I love fiction, but I don’t write it.  No point.  My life is stranger, messier, funnier and filled with more adventure than anything I could dream up.

And while I enjoy my sitcom, sometimes I like to turn the channel and enjoy someone else’s for a time.

 

 

 

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